First Floor #40 – What Does "Doing Better" Actually Look Like?

a.k.a. Dismantling the systemic racism of the music industry.

Hello there. I’m Shawn Reynaldo, and welcome to First Floor, a weekly electronic music digest that includes news, my favorite new tracks and some of my thoughts on the issues affecting the larger scene / industry that surrounds the music. If you haven’t done so already, please consider subscribing to the newsletter by clicking the button below.

ON MY MIND

A lot can happen in two weeks. Last time I sent out a newsletter, I focused on dance music’s hasty rush to reopen and “get back to normal,” and its seeming unwillingness to embrace serious, structural change in the face of a world-altering pandemic.

That very same day, the horrific video of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police began to circulate online, and the world hasn’t really been the same since. Massive protests have broken out across the United States, and have also begun to pop up in the UK, Europe and other parts of the world. Talk of structural racism, white fragility and police abolition has entered the cultural mainstream, and while it’s too early to tell what’s going to happen, it certainly feels like things have reached a breaking point, and hopefully that will translate into substantive, positive change when it comes to racism, inequality, policing and more.

With all of this happening, the usual music industry chatter feels utterly unimportant, especially after its stock had already hit an all-time low during the COVID-19 crisis. That’s why I took a break from First Floor last week; in the face of a global conversation about white supremacy, my musings about streaming platforms or whatever else I had in mind felt like small potatoes, and something like a weekly round-up of my favorite new tunes seemed frivolous. For once, the “we need music now more than ever” crowd had gone silent, and that was fine with me.

Even now, I feel a bit apprehensive about getting back to the newsletter, as the last thing I want to do is needlessly take up space talking about music when there’s a much larger, long overdue cultural movement going on. At the same time, structural racism, discrimination and inequality isn’t limited to the street; it’s everywhere, including the music industry, which finally seems to be taking a long look in the mirror about its often exploitative relationship with black music, black culture and black artists.

Admittedly, some of this soul searching has been performative or downright ineffective. Last Tuesday was #BlackoutTuesday (a.k.a. #TheShowMustBePaused), a movement spearheaded by two black female music executives with ties to Atlantic Records. Intended as a disruptive action in which the industry would take time to reflect, the campaign was observed by practically every major music brand on the planet (and plenty of minor ones too), but ultimately wound up backfiring. Social media was littered with criticism that the industry had effectively muted itself and taken a day off during a time when it instead needed to be speaking up. It also didn’t help that the campaign triggered a wave of empty (and effectively meaningless) black boxes on Instagram, many of which were hashtagged with #BlackLivesMatter, rendering actually helpful #BlackLivesMatter posts (i.e. ones with information and resources) invisible in most people’s feeds.

The major streaming platforms also proved to be completely ineffectual that day. Apple Music canceled its Beats1 radio programming for the day and presented users with a custom playlist of black music. Amazon Music went as far as… pausing its social media. Spotify rolled out a more elaborate plan, highlighted by largely meaningless gestures like new logos, on-site ads promoting playlists of black music and the insertion of an 8-minute, 46-second track of silence into “select” playlists and podcasts. (Given that the ability to skip tracks is one of Spotify’s key features, I found that last one particularly galling.)

Bandcamp, however, once again rose to the occasion, designating this year’s Juneteenth (and every June 19 thereafter) as a day in which the platform would donate 100% of its share of sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. In combination with last week’s already planned Bandcamp Friday, on which many music fans made a point to only buy music from black artists and labels (and many non-black artists and labels promised to send some or all of their profits toward black-supporting organizations), the initiative will give a concrete, ongoing boost to the black creative community during a time when must companies have struggled to offer more than manicured platitudes. (It’s also garnered Bandcamp a whole lot of goodwill; this Marc Hogan-penned feature for Pitchfork that went up last Thursday painted the company in a glowing light. How are other brands not seeing this and following suit?)

The music community is demanding real change, and within dance music, organizations that inadequately answer the call are paying the price. In the face of intense criticism about the site’s relationship with black music and culture, Resident Advisor issued a major mea culpa in which it promised to make a $15,000 donation to a range of black-supporting organizations, and also pledged to make ongoing financial contributions, revamp its editorial process and publicly dissect past mistakes. Further details will be rolled out in the weeks ahead, but the statement seems to have earned RA a temporary reprieve.

It’s unclear if that same courtesy will be extended to Dekmantel, whose initial response to the current situation (which has since been deleted, but pledged to donate all proceeds from their merch sales during June) kicked off a torrent of withering criticism, including from some artists who’d previously worked with the Dutch festival / label. Last Saturday, a second, more comprehensive statement was released, promising a €5000 donation while acknowledging past missteps (in a general way) and pledging to more actively support black communities moving forward. (More exact details about what that support will look like were said to be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.)

These are just two examples, and we’re likely to see more in the weeks ahead. There’s something of a reckoning underway, and though we have yet to see just how effective it will be in terms of prompting real change within the industry, I’m guessing that a lot of clubs, festivals, labels, publications, booking agencies, music technology companies and other industry figures are worried that they’ll be called to account next.

Of course, there’s an easy way for the industry to deal with this situation: by doing better. That’s easier said than done, but I think it’s clear that messages of solidarity are no longer sufficient. On a basic level, this means more visibility for black artists and labels, whether it’s in the press or on lineups. Even amongst people in dance music who know and celebrate the music’s predominantly black roots, there’s a commonly held belief that when it comes to today’s electronic music landscape, black artists are in short supply. However, in the face of this incredible crowdsourced spreadsheet of black artists and labels, which was created in advance of last week’s Bandcamp Friday and currently sits at more than 1800 entries, no self-respecting person can (or should) make that argument ever again.

Yet this problem goes beyond mere representation on line-ups and in the press. Behind the scenes, the problem is actually much worse. Over the years, I’ve worked in so many facets of the music industry; most people know me as a journalist, but I’ve also run record labels, thrown parties and have done lots of radio too. In those various roles, I’ve also collaborated with club owners, PR firms, artist managers, booking agents, mixing and mastering engineers, lighting and sound technicians and plenty of other music industry figures too. And what do these groups all have in common? The vast majority of people working in these roles are white.

Now, don’t get me wrong, most of the folks I’ve worked with approach their jobs with good intentions and almost certainly consider themselves to be liberal, open-minded people, but clearly, that’s not enough, especially when one considers how curation works. Take journalists—most of us are white, and every day, we’re bombarded with promos, almost all of which are coming from white PR reps who’ve been hired by white-owned labels who very possibly signed the artist after seeing them at a club night or festival that was booked by a white person. Even when we get word-of-mouth recommendations, they’re primarily coming through a network of white music fans and professionals. This is an absurd situation for black artists, as finding success and recognition requires navigating an industry framework that’s populated almost entirely by white people. Considering that many of these artists come to the industry without the same social connections (and sometimes without the same cultural / professional norms) as their white counterparts, that’s a tall order indeed.

Last week, UK producer Scratcha DVA put together a roundtable of white music professionals for a couple of online discussions focused on racism and inequality within the industry. Participants included Blaise Bellville (the founder of Boiler Room), Plastician, Tom Lea (head of the Local Action label), Lara Rix-Martin (head of the Objects Ltd. label) and others. The conversation itself didn’t yield a lot of solutions, but one moment I found particularly illuminating was when Hyperdub founder Kode9 was talking about working with black artists, and—I’m paraphrasing here—the difficulties they encounter when it comes to marketing and presenting their work in a way that makes sense to middle- and upper-class white people, who aren’t just the primary consumers of niche electronic music, but also occupy most of the decision-making positions within the industry.

To be clear, Kode9 wasn’t saying this was a good thing. It’s just the way things are, or at least have been for many years, and a lot of music professionals (myself included) frequently neglect to take these cultural differences into account. The music industry has all kinds of unofficial rules and norms: what a press release should look like, how long a publicity campaign should run, which PR agencies are best, how much time an artist should leave between releases, how frequently it’s acceptable to play a gig in a particular city… the list is endless, and almost all of these rules and norms have been crafted by white people. Even worse, they’re not actually written down anywhere. People are just expected to know them, and if they don’t, they often struggle to even get their foot in the door.

I’m not saying that every single industry rule and norm should be tossed out—with so much music being released these days, some of them are downright essential—but it’s unrealistic to expect black artists to learn them all by osmosis. This issue intersects with class of course, and I’ve previously spoken a lot about the overrepresentation of the upper classes in the music industry, but even if we set that aside, how are black artists (or black people who want to get involved in any aspect of the industry) supposed to learn how it all works when so few people from their own communities have a seat at the table? Who are they supposed to ask for help?

Music is such an inherently social industry, and “who you know” is often essential to being given opportunities, especially for those who are just starting out. People hire their friends, or friends of friends, and also rely on those same extended social circles for recommendations about which new artists they should check out, which clubs are popping, which parties are worth attending, what record stores have the best selections… again, the list is endless, and when so much of this social / professional circuit is populated by white people, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that the industry has made so little progress when it comes to representation.

Looking back at my own career, I’d like to say that I had avoided these traps, but the truth is that I’m just as guilty as most other music professionals I know. I admit that before last week, I hadn’t really considered some of these issues, as I was complacent in the fact that because I had written about and booked countless black artists over the years, I was doing my part to help. After all, even though my colleagues and I had been mostly all white, we were also “progressive” people with good intentions and the right politics, which placed us on the right side of this struggle. It almost feels ridiculous to be writing these things now, but after doing a lot of reading, reflecting and listening in recent days, it’s now obvious to me that I wasn’t doing enough.

For instance, there were numerous times that I was an editor or a team leader, and while I always kept diversity in mind when hiring staff or even freelancers, I often let other concerns (e.g. time constraints, a lack of budget, the precarity of my own employment) override a clear need to get more black and brown faces involved. And when I’ve been invited to participate in other people’s projects, I’ve rarely asked about (or even thoroughly considered) the diversity of the rest of the team before saying yes or no to the offer. When I get an offer, my main concern is whether or not I find the opportunity interesting, and as a white man, I just immediately assume that I’ll be comfortable and able to contribute to any professional situation. And why wouldn’t I? The modern music industry was built by and largely for people that look and think like me.

Digesting that realization was hard, and I think it’s perhaps the biggest hurdle for white music professionals, especially those of us who work in the more niche or “underground” corners of the industry. For most of us, it’s not a lucrative path, and I personally have almost constantly felt like my job was on shaky ground for more than a decade now, even when I was performing well. The music industry is insanely competitive to begin with, and the endless cutbacks and layoffs have cut many companies down to the bone, with journalists being hit particularly hard. But it’s not just journalists—almost everyone I know in the industry feels similarly uneasy, and while it’s not an excuse for failing to dismantle structural inequality, that insecurity does at least help to explain people’s tendency to clutch on to their little piece of the pie (i.e. their job) and not actively go out of their way to let others in the door.

Unfortunately though, that mentality, in combination with structural racism, has made for the toxic situation in which we now find ourselves. Untangling this mess won’t be easy—remember, we’re talking about black music marketed by a predominantly white industry for predominantly white audiences—but it’s clear that the status quo isn’t working. Good intentions and well-meaning white people aren’t going to cut it; the industry needs more black and brown faces in positions of power, period. Perhaps that means letting some white employees go and specifically replacing them with people of color. Perhaps that means setting up paid internships and / or mentorship programs for BIPOC looking to get involved the industry. However it’s done, the industry needs to be willing to invest in the future and make hard choices.

Furthermore, when black and brown people are hired, they need to be given a say in shaping some of those rules and norms I was talking about earlier. They should be encouraged to bring their social and professional networks into the industry, whether that’s hiring a black photographer or a black mixing engineer or something else. Beyond that, when someone is added to the team, they can’t be expected to represent their entire race or culture; BIPOC people aren’t a monolith and hiring them needs to be about more than ticking boxes. (In terms of music journalism, that means not ghettoizing black writers by only commissioning them to write about black artists and trends. Let them do the Caribou interview, the Innervisions label profile or whatever else your white writers would normally cover—they’ll probably bring some interesting new perspectives to the table.) We need to change the professional culture of the music industry, and that means allowing BIPOC individuals to help shape, and even set the agenda.

Admittedly, it’s easy for me to say these things now. Working as a freelancer in Barcelona, I’m not doing a whole lot of hiring or commissioning these days. That may change someday, but even if it doesn’t, I’m not incapable of contributing to positive change in the music industry. Last week, a friend asked me about what my attempts to “do better” might look like going forward, and I came up with the following:

  • When I am hiring or putting together a team (even a short-term one), making sure that it includes black people.

  • When I’m invited to join a team or project, not agreeing to participate unless there are black people involved.

  • When black artists reach out to me with music that I’m not digging for whatever reason, directing them to other journalists who might be interested instead of just saying no.

  • Making myself available to black writers and industry professionals (both aspiring and established) who are looking for advice, contacts, feedback or help of any kind. (Seriously, please contact me. Also, just FYI: Ray Philp, an excellent writer and former Reviews Editor at Resident Advisor, made the same offer.)

  • Being proactive about seeking out new black artists and writing about their music, whether that’s here in the newsletter or elsewhere. Relying on my usual filters is no longer enough.

  • Recognizing that regardless of my intentions, I’m going to make mistakes sometimes, which requires that I be willing to listen to criticism that’s thrown my way, even if it’s uncomfortable to hear.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I see this list as a work in progress and I’m open to suggestions. I’d also encourage other industry professionals to do a similar personal inventory; with the pandemic still raging, most of us have the time, and personally, I found the exercise to be both useful and rewarding. At the same time, I also know that this is just the beginning. The internet right now is full of white people promising to “do better,” and I recognize that this essay might come across as just another flowery expression of white guilt. That’s not my intention, but the only way to prove it is to follow through, and my actions in the months and years to come will ultimately speak much louder than my words here ever will. As quickly as things have changed in the past two weeks, upending the music industry will be a process, not an event. I’ll almost certainly make some mistakes along the way—we all will—but now that there’s some momentum behind real change, it’s on all of us (and white people in particular) to make it happen.


REAL QUICK

A round-up of the most interesting electronic music news of the past two weeks, plus links to mixes, articles and other things I think are worth sharing. Given the current state of affairs, all of these items feature black artists and / or issues in the music industry specifically relating to black people.

  • As I mentioned above, last week’s Bandcamp Friday became an impromptu “buy music from black artists day,” which also prompted Resident Advisor to put together this extensive list of recommended new and recent releases from black producers. For those seeking something with a more personal touch, the Buy Music Club homepage has more than 100 lists of black music recommendations.

  • In her most recent article, the invaluable Cherie Hu did a bit of old-fashioned reporting (and arithmetic), examining the racial makeup of the board members and C-suite executives for Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Live Nation and AEG. Her findings? Only 8% of these people were black. (She also took a look at livestream festival bookings over the past few months and—spoiler alert—the numbers are equally dismal.)

  • Following last year’s Information album, NYC producer Galcher Lustwerk will be returning to Ghostly International with a new EP called Proof on July 10. Ahead of its arrival, he’s shared the AceMoMa remix of EP cut “Speed.”

  • Canadian artist Jayda G (who’s now based in London) announced a new EP for Ninja Tune. Entitled Both of Us / Are U Down, it’s scheduled for release on July 3, and her “Sunset Bliss” remix of piano-house gem “Both of Us” is streaming here.

  • Hypnotic New Jersey producer Joey Anderson, who recently dropped the excellent Rainbow Doll album on Avenue 66, posted an hour-long session he’s calling USB Mix-4 on SoundCloud.

  • A fundraiser for legendary Chicago house producer Adonis has been set up to make up for the fact that he was never paid any royalties by Trax Records, despite being the author of numerous classics, including the seminal “No Way Back.” Although the fundraiser began with a £1,000 target, it’s already brought in more than £9,000 in donations.


MY WIFE HAS BETTER TASTE THAN I DO

My wife Dania is a wonderful person, but she has little regard for my taste in electronic music. As the head of the Paralaxe Editions label, she often describes the music I like with words like “cheesy,” “simple,” “predictable,” “boring” and, worst of all (in her mind), “happy.” In contrast, I think she has a fantastic ear, and I’m constantly amazed by the obscure gems she unearths, both from record bins and the dark corners of the internet. Given that, I’ve asked Dania to share some of her finds with the First Floor audience. Each week, she highlights something that she’s currently digging, and adds some of her thoughts as to why it’s worth our attention.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu “Wiyathul”

Hello mob. I would like to begin by paying my respects to the Yamaji people, the traditional custodians of this land where I am today. For those of you who don’t know, I work a lot with indigenous people, the First Nations people of Australia. Our history of genocide and ongoing racism is horrific; the rate of indigenous deaths in custody per capita is 16.5 times higher than that of non-indigenous people, and health inequity is such that the indigenous population here suffers from diseases that were last prevalent amongst white people in the Victorian era. As a doctor, I have innumerable stories of the injustices faced by indigenous people, but I’ve also been witness to some of the beauty of their culture. I was fortunate to once treat the amazing musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, who is originally from Elcho Island near Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory. Completely blind and self-taught, he played a right-handed guitar left-handed (i.e. upside down). I’m currently listening to this song on repeat and it’s making my heart ache. RIP Gurrumul, your voice was something else.

Follow Dania on Twitter, or check out her monthly radio show on dublab.es.


NEW THIS WEEK

Normally, this is where I run down my favorite tunes that came out during the past week. However, given that I skipped last week’s newsletter and also feel the need to specifically highlight the work of black artists, this edition will highlight some of my favorite new(ish) offerings from black producers. Moving forward, I will work to make sure that their music makes up a larger percentage of this weekly round-up.

Click on the track titles to hear each song individually, or you can also just head over to this convenient Buy Music Club list to find them all in one place.

Nailah Hunter “White Flower, Dark Hill” (Leaving)

Nailah Hunter “Talisman” (Leaving)

Two songs from Spells, the gorgeous debut release from LA-based harpist and composer Nailah Hunter. A new addition to Matthewdavid’s Leaving Records, Hunter specializes in a swirly brand of ambient, her gentle plucks beautifully intermingling with hazy synths and lo-fi snippets of her own voice. There’s a bit of a Grouper vibe, but Hunter’s music is more rooted in magic than sorrow and longing; for some reason, the ’90s animated film Fern Gully kept coming to mind while I was listening to these tracks, and between the sparkling pads and the gentle whispers, there’s something truly fantastic going on.

King Britt “Back 2 Black” (Black Catalogue)

It’s strange to think of King Britt as a slept-on artist, but even though this Philly producer—and former DJ for Digable Planets!—has been releasing quality music since the mid ’90s, it feels like he rarely gets his due. Perhaps it’s because he’s increasingly gone in an experimental direction over the past decade, particularly with his work as Fhloston Paradigm, but on his new Back 2 Black EP, he’s found his way back to soulful house grooves. By “soulful,” I don’t mean that this track has diva chops or breaks lifted from old funk records; “Back 2 Black” goes deep, but its sci-fi wiggle is highlighted by squelchy modular synths. It’s relaxed, confident and perfect for a heady trip into the cosmos.

Kush Jones “Jiggiest” (Self-released)

Hailing from The Bronx, Kush Jones is a leading figure amongst the new wave of young black producers currently reshaping NYC’s house and techno scene. He’s also incredibly prolific, and just released the ninth installment of his Strictly 4 My CDJZ series. (Just FYI, Jones also has an incredible new record on Future Times that’s dropping later this month; I will undoubtedly be raving about that one in a future edition of the newsletter.) Kush is something of a shapeshifter, easily moving between house, techno, footwork, jungle and more, but regardless of what genre he’s working with, he seems most comfortable when the tempos are high. “Jiggiest” clocks in at 160 bpm, but there’s a sense of laid-back cool to the track, which layers sleazy pads and tweaky, Legend of Zelda-style melodies over the song’s stealthily skipping rhythm. It’s an undeniable gem from an artist whose potential seems limitless.

Members Only “2088” (Berceuse Heroique)

Speaking of prolific artists, I don’t know if anyone can keep up with Jamal Moss (a.k.a Hieroglyphic Being). It was less than two weeks ago that the veteran Chicago iconoclast released an experimental cassette for Boomkat’s new Documenting Sound imprint, and now he’s revived his Members Only guise for this psychedelic, post-punky edit of what sounds like The Fall’s 1988 song “Big New Prinz.” Truth be told, the track bears little resemblance to the original, but there’s a lot of charm in this hypnotically chaotic rework, which combines a hypnotic disco chug with a dizzying flurry of guitar squall and looped snippets of Mark E. Smith’s vocal incantations. Jamal Moss always keeps it interesting.

Lamin Fofana “I Ran from It and Was Still in It” (Black Studies)

Raised in Sierra Leone and Guinea and currently based in Berlin, I first encountered Lamin Fofana during his many years in New York. Back then, he was running with the Dutty Artz crew and made music that was often categorized as global bass; that said, there was always a lot of techno and experimental sounds in his work, an affinity that became increasingly clear once he founded his own Sci-Fi & Fantasy imprint. (Side note: the label was responsible for some of Lotic’s first releases.) Fofana has kept a relatively low profile since moving to Germany in 2016, releasing the Black Metamorphosis album last year, but now he’s kicked off new imprint called Black Studies with an EP called Darkwater. Eschewing beats almost entirely, it’s a beautiful record, infusing ambient sounds with jagged melodies and small bursts of distortion, but closing track “I Ran from It and Was Still in It” takes a more austere path, combining buzzing sonics with somber swells to create something that’s both haunting and truly special.

Huey Mnemonic “Virtuosity” (Subsonic Ebonics)

Huey Mnemonic hails from Detroit, and says that his music is “exploring sci-fi themes through the lens of black liberation.” Listening to to “Virtuosity,” it’s obvious that there’s some Underground Resistance in his musical DNA, as the hard-charging tune could have been plucked straight from the seminal label’s ’90s catalog. That’s not a criticism; although producers have been trying (and largely failing) to mimic this style for decades, only a handful of artists have the chops to really pull it off. Astral techno is easy enough to make, but Mnemonic understands the need to keep things funky and playful; “Virtuosity” is ready for blast off, but the song’s lively, snapping percussion and flittering melodic flourishes are what make it perfect for dancefloors right here on Earth.

Digital “Bitter Wind (Double O VIP)” (RuptureLDN)

A drum & bass don with an impeccable resume that dates back to the mid ’90s, UK producer Digital is still kicking, dropping records on the regular—mostly via his own Function label—and showing new generations of junglists how it’s done. “Bitter Wind” was first released in 2014 on RuptureLDN—the label arm of the party of the same name—and it’s been revived here with a new VIP remix from Rupture co-founder Double O. Armed with big, booming drums, the rollicking track still has an organic feel, not to mention something of a pensive vibe, thanks to its fuzzy (and slightly gloomy) melodies, which largely float and linger in the background as the percussion wrecks shop.

Olive T “Midst of It Dubbb Version” (Self-released)

A regular presence in the NYC club circuit, Olive T has been gradually expanding her reach as a producer as well. Back in March, she remixed the latest Pale Blue single for 2MR, and last Friday she dropped a single of her own called “m.o.i,” which seems to be an abbreviation for “Midst of It.” The original is a solid melodic techno track, but I found myself gravitating toward this ambient “Dubbb Version,” a live edit that she literally put together the night before it was released. It’s got a soaring, cinematic feel (and some subtly foreboding undertones), and made me think of artists like Wendy Carlos and the sci-fi soundtracks of the 1970s. The club might be her main focus, but clearly she’s also got a talent for sounds that can’t be hemmed in by the dancefloor.

AceMo “R U READY 4 THE…” (Self-released)

Arguably the hottest producer in NYC right now, AceMo has been on a tear over the past year, casually dropping a string of EPs and albums—both solo and alongside frequent collaborator MoMA Ready—while obliterating the notion that there’s any need for artists these days to stick to any sort of genre boundaries. His latest EP, System Override, is another outburst of raw, machine-made dancefloor rhythms, and “R U READY 4 THE…” pulls heavily from the freewheeling spirit of rave-ready UK hardcore and jungle. Simply put, it’s a lot of fun, and between the sharp stabs, rumbling percussion and rowdy vocal samples—a man literally screams at one point—this one is poised to do some damage.

Foreigner “Touch Ground” (Intl Blk)

Born in Trinidad & Tobago, raised in Caracas and Brooklyn and now based in Los Angeles, Foreigner brings a truly international perspective to his music, and “Touch Ground” is a perfect song for this moment of protest. Anchored by a thundering beat that nods to a variety of Afro-Caribbean rhythms, the song—which was co-produced by Intl Blk founder Chief Boima—is upfront and downright indignant, prominently featuring an excerpt of political organizer Kwame Ture railing against “white violence” during a 1967 speech in London. The next time someone tells you that dance music isn’t political, put this track on.

Space Afrika “Oh Baby” (Self-released)

As much as we’re living through a time of protest and righteous indignation, it’s important to remember that it’s also a time for sorrow and mourning. The death of George Floyd (and the countless others who’ve died at the hands of police and racism, both overt and systemic) is a tragedy, one with real, human costs. We often discuss what happened (and what it means) in the abstract, but we all saw a video of a real human being being killed in the street. That’s horrifying and traumatic, and doubly so for black families and communities who’ve seen this scenario play out again and again and again. That trauma is all over hybtwibt?, the fantastic new mixtape from Manchester duo Space Afrika. “Oh Baby” is particularly affecting, juxtaposing sweetly sad strings with a soulful diva lament and a heartbreaking clip of a crying child talking about black suffering and the need to protest. It’s powerful stuff, and a necessary reminder that at its core, the Black Lives Matter movement is about basic human rights.


And with that, we’ve reached the end of this week’s newsletter. If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading, and I really do hope you enjoyed the tunes. (Don’t forget, you can find them all on this handy Buy Music Club list, and if you like them, please buy them.)

Until next time,

Shawn


Shawn Reynaldo is a freelance writer, editor, presenter and project manager. Find him on LinkedIn or drop him an email to get in touch about projects, collaborations or potential work opportunities.